Nitin Kawale, seen here at a 2012 Cisco event, will join Rogers. ITWC staff photo
Nitin Kawale, seen here at a 2012 Cisco event, will join Rogers. ITWC staff photo

Rogers Communications is beefing up its weapons to get more business from the business sector.

The company said Friday it has hired Nitin Kawale away from his post at Cisco Systems Canada effective Dec. 1 to be president of Rogers’ enterprise business unit. He’ll  be responsible for the pulling in customers of all sizes including the public sector. Kawale will report to CEO Guy Laurence and be a member of the Executive team.

Replacing him will be Bernadette Wightman, who has been general manager for Cisco in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other nearby countries. Before that she led channel and commercial sales for Cisco’s emerging theatre, which spans 84 countries and over 10,000 partners.

Kawale has been with Cisco for 19 years, including six as president of Cisco Canada.

“Nitin is a proven, accomplished executive who is well-known and respected in the business space,” Laurence said in a statement. “Business customers in Canada are currently underserved and we’re going to change that. We’re serious about helping businesses use technology to be more productive and efficient. Nitin’s track record for innovating and building relationships across the business community will be key assets as we execute on our Rogers 3.0 plan. He’ll be a great contributor to Rogers and the executive team.”

“There couldn’t be a better time to join Rogers,” Kawale said in the statement. “I’ve partnered with Rogers for more than six years and have watched the dynamic and exciting changes taking place within the company. From the small start-up to the large, enterprise customer, it’s clear Rogers is serious about helping Canadian businesses adopt technology that will foster productivity and growth. They’ve brought wireless, wireline and data-centre assets together to provide end-to-end solutions for business customers, which is hugely exciting. I look forward to working with Guy and the team at Rogers to better serve Canadian businesses of all sizes.”

The move is one of the biggest personnel changes at the company since Laurence took over as CEO just over a year ago from Vodaphone UK. At the time of his Canadian debut he told reporters that “We don’t know how to play as an orchestra. We’re not a growth company at the moment, but I believe we can return to growth.”

A Rogers spokesperson said that Kawale couldn’t comment because he’ll still be with Cisco for six weeks. Rogers executives weren’t giving interviews on what the enterprise business division’s strategy will be going forward.

In a note to investors Dvai Ghose, head of research at Canaccord Genuity, said that “we are pleasantly surprised that Rogers could attract an executive of his caliber … We believe that Rogers’ focus on the enterprise market has been lacklustre in the past because former CEO Nadir Mohamed was cautious about opportunities in this segment. In contrast, new CEO Guy Laurence has said that he achieved more in the enterprise market than the consumer market while at Vodafone.”

Even before Laurence arrived Rogers was aiming to get deeper into the data centre remote management and hosting business, buying the Black Iron division of Primus Canada in April, 2013, followed a few months later by the purchase of Pivot Data Centres in Calgary and Edmonton, and Granite Networks of Ottawa.

In May of this year Laurence unveiled what he called his “Rogers 3.0” plan to overhaul the company, separating the enterprise division from the consumer unit. Among the goals of the Rogers 3.0 plan is to “drive meaningful growth in the business market.” At the time Larry Baldachin was named interim head of the enterprise division. Today Rogers said that Baladachin will stay on as a key executive of Kawale’s team.

As an Ontario-based cable company, Rogers’ main focus has been on attracting and retaining consumers. But as it faces incumbent phone company Bell Canada in its home territory it also wants to broaden its broadband and data centre offerings to enterprises. In Kawale he gets an executive who at Cisco had contact with the country’s biggest enterprises.

But, Ghose warned, that Rogers [TSX: RCI.A] should target enterprises carefully. There’s no point in trying to win large wireline contracts from big companies, he wrote. Nor, he added, should it try to expand its business offerings by buying the Allstream division of Manitoba Telecom Services, which has a fibre optic network across the country. Allstream has a significant legacy phone equipment exposure, Ghose argued. Instead, Kawale should focus on large and below enterprises.

According to Rogers’ latest quarterly results, in Q2 the business solutions division accounted for $95 million of the company’s $3 billion in operating revenue for the three-month period. That includes business wireline, voice and data services. However, it doesn’t include enterprise wireless revenue. Its total revenue for wireless during the quarter was $1.8 billion.

 



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